Before I stopped drinking, I thought I knew what alcohol-free living would be like. I was convinced that sobriety was going to be as boring as hell.
Alcohol seemed to be the thing that made everything sparkle. It turned bad nights into good ones; it injected fun and glamour where there was none.
Not only did I believe this, but everyone else around me seemed to as well. My generation was raised on Bridget Jones and Sex And The City; we were bound to think that drinking is how you have fun.
In her memoir Blackout, Sarah Hepola describes viewing alcohol – mistakenly – as the ‘gasoline of adventure’. That’s what I used to think too. Now, I have a completely different view. After three and a half years of sobriety, I can say with certainty that sobriety is not boring.
Here’s the thing: alcohol isn’t magic – it’s poison. It does NOT have the power to make an occasion more or less special. The best it can offer is the opportunity to become slightly less aware of your surroundings so you don’t notice the crap stuff quite so much.
Not convinced? Here are three experiments you can try:
When have you drunk lots – but not had a good time?
We’ve all been to parties where it doesn’t matter how much we drink, we just don’t enjoy ourselves. Why is that? If alcohol really is the secret ingredient to a fun night out, shouldn’t it work every time, no matter what? The reality is that a boring party is going to be a boring party, no matter what. It’s just that when you’re sober, you notice it a bit more – and that’s a good thing! Who wants to waste their time doing things that bore them?
You can also flip this exercise around and analyse a really fun, happy event. What was it that made it so good? Was it really the alcohol? Or did it have something to do with the food, the music, the company of the people you were with, the mood you were in, what you were wearing or your expectations of the event before you arrived? We give alcohol way too much credit.
Look at the big picture.
Examine your drinking over the past three months. Consider all the drinking occasions AND the hangovers. Drinking isn’t just about how we feel in the moment, it’s about how we feel the next day and the day after that. What opportunities have you missed out on as a result of your drinking? What have you not bothered to do because you felt crap? What’s been on your to-do list for ages, but you’ve just not got round to it? Life is what you make of it. When I look back on my drinking days, the thing that really stands out is the repetitive, boring, unambitious nature of it. Drinking made my life dull and kept me stuck in a rut. (No wonder I needed to consume a mind-altering drug in order to feel better about myself.)
Consider the worst-case scenario.
Imagine for a moment that you stop drinking and ALL your friends decide you’re a boring, sober loser. You go to dinner parties and nights out and they’re just dull, dull, dull. I think this is very unlikely to happen (!) but if it does, is it a bad thing? Not necessarily.
Alcohol is really good at papering over the cracks and helping you avoid the truth. If you can only enjoy the company of certain people whilst under the influence of a mind-altering drug, then it suggests you don’t get on that well in the first place. And if those people reject you because you’re no longer following the crowd or fitting in, then it doesn’t say much about them.
Personally, I’d rather know when I’m bored or spending time with the wrong people. Surely that’s got to be better than sleepwalking through a life that’s full of things you don’t really like?
I’d love to hear from you on this one.
What are your answers to the three scenarios above? Whether you’ve just recently gone alcohol-free or you’re in long-term sobriety, what’s life like for you now? What’s surprised you? I’d love to know.
Being sober is seeing the truth – of yourself, friendships, and what you are capable of. Sometimes I worry about being dull, but having fun is my business, not anyone else’s. It’s a real relief not to hang out with people who did not have your best interests at heart, and only used you as a person who sat across from them while they drank. Thanks Kate for your post!! xx
I’m glad this resonated with you MJ! And I totally agree … having fun IS your business. No one else can tell you what’s ‘fun’ and what’s ‘boring’! 🙂
Hi i loved this blog…im am currently 2 and half yers sober but have to admit that iv found myself very restless this last few months and that ‘bored’ feeling has cme creeping back in…so im so lad to have read this and the experiment has put things into perspective again… i got married in feb past and i have to say it was the most amazing day alcohol free the music the food the people.. i never would have imagined that i could ever have enjoyed that without my glass of champagne to toast but i did and loves every moment of it..i loved the fact that i was so aware of all the things around me …when i first got sober the large group of people that were my so called friend soon disappeared and i was branded boring but as the experiment says that has defsaid more about tgem than me and i can honestly say that i am so glad to have those people out of my life today…thanks so much for this read it was exactly what i needed xxx
I love this Noelle – congratulations on your 2 and half years, and the sober wedding! Getting married without champagne is something many people just can’t imagine. But like you say, it’s not champagne that makes your wedding day special … it’s everything else that happens on that amazing day! It sounds like it went brilliantly 🙂
I completely agree with this. I am just beginning my sober journey, but I have had so called “friends” who tried to get me to not stop drinking
Hi! I’m just 13 days out. I’ve kind of sequestered myself so far, and haven’t ventured out much. I am still missing my habitual glasses of wine at lunches out, or in the evening. But, I am determined. I have cleaned all signs of alcohol from my house, but I’m still worried about being tempted when going out with good friends. I know I don’t want to be confined forever, but it’s working for now. I hope I will feel stronger about avoiding temptation eventually because I have some really great friends that still drink.
Hi Laurie, well done on your 13 days. Have you had a go at the exercises above? I reckon that if you’re with good friends you don’t really need to drink. You don’t need to chemically alter the way you feel because you’re having fun anyway, right?
I’m also 13.. well now 14 days without alcohol! It’s been good so far. I’m getting a lot of support (and questions) some ups and downs too. I have cancelled some weekend plans because now I feel almost Id rather stay in and enjoy my solitude – reading, painting, Netflix, tea and face masks! Total “Allie time”. However some of me thinks it’s also because I know “partying” is a little different now that I won’t be drinking. I’ve spent the last 15 years at parties in a haze. A loud, social, life of the party kind of haze, talking to anyone and everyone. I’m still coming to terms with this. I now notice intoxicated people more. I notice the effects of alcohol on people more. I’ve never liked drunk people. To be around them when I was sober, which rarely ever happened because I was always the drunkest one. The party girl. But I’ve been feeling positive and proud of myself lately. Very calm and level headed. In control and collected. I don’t think I feel that I’m boring, I think I feel that some parties or bar scenes, get togethers are boring. I don’t stay out late anymore. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I don’t feel like going to certain parties because I know everyone will just be drunk or high and I can’t be bothered. Is this a normal feeling?
It’s normal for your tastes to change when you stop drinking. As I said in point 3 above, that’s actually a good thing. It’s far better to know what it is you genuinely enjoy, than to be in a drunken haze, doing things you don’t really like! I find some parties are boring, but others are great. It just depends on the people there, the music and the atmosphere. It’s fine to go for a while, see what it’s like and then leave if you want to.
This is such a great article and so so true. I’ve been sober only 2 months (this is my third attempt – third time lucky!) and within that time I’ve been out to several social occasions. One of which was an old friend’s birthday party with people I hadn’t seen since my major drinking days almost 10 years ago. Although nervous at first I had the best time ever. I thoroughly enjoyed the company, music and atmosphere and best of all, I woke up the next day remembering everything without any regret or embarrassment! Drinking alcohol would have added nothing to my night. The night was great because of who I was with etc. I’m planning to do as many of these nights out as possible. Xx
Thanks Kath. Congratulations on your two months – and I’m so pleased to hear you had a good night! It’s your friends, the music and the atmosphere that makes all the difference 🙂
I find i need to have my head in the right place to go into periods of sobriety but when it is I find I completely agree with all of the above comments. I don’t have a major alcohol problem so I do dip in and out for now. I find your blog inspires me to stick with being sober and when I do it brings a lot of positive. Luckily I have some great friends who like me sober or drinking (I don’t get drunk) so currently it’s best of both worlds. Thank you for all your inspiring words
I find a lot of situations and people very boring now. I definitely did things because there was drink involved. Now I prefer to spend my time differently. Occasionally I feel I’m missing out but as people start to get drunk I soon feel certain in my choice to be sober.
Your post actually reminded me about the days wasted and promises broken that were a regular feature when I was drinking. Now I have a clear head and a clear conscience.
Same here Ruth, though for me I am in a safer place sober. Drinking lead me into making poor choices while thinking it was fun at the time and carefree, I now see how I was taken advantage off and used at times. Like you I now consciously choose a different path.
I’m just starting the journey to many blackouts the last one two days ago after fun evening and I am feeling terrible about it, ones again, now it’s time to live a different life with full memory
Be patient and enjoy a whole new world opening up for you to embrace- while still cherishing the best of the old one. True friends won’t judge you by your alcohol consumption or question your decision, though they may open a door for you to talk, if you want to. Years in I now have new circles of friends in different areas of interest- the arts, health and well being,local heritage, trade union activity, education- and my drinking or not is irrelevant. All aeas I always meant to commit to but never did, or not fully. Some drink, some have quit, some prefer not to. I always knew I didn’t want a life avoiding pubs and eateries but I do choose to attend things where drink isn’t the only activity- quizzes, live music, or any live performance, are the real fun. If you’re wobbling allow me to suggest three more exercises: 1. write a list of all the social things you’ve done since you quit drinking- and be impressed 2.In a situation where alcohol is for sale/on offer, do some people watching (discreetly!) and count the non drinkers. It’ll surprise you 3.When you feel strong enough, agree to join (hard)drinking friends and drive. As you have something else to do, too. Stay in their company until it becomes repetitive and boring- to you, cos you’re sober. Excuse yourself, do some late night shopping, go to ylouj yoga class, go home and clean the house, read a book, whatever and re join them at closing time.They’ll be having the same conversation. Keep your word, provide lifts.Never ever feel smug or superior. You’re not. You’ve just re defined fun. And do this again only if you want to. (And yes, I have!)
Thanks Felicity, I love these suggestions.
17 days sober now ( 3 sat nights ) I work in a pub as a singer and my goodness the first 2 Saturday nights were hard. I’ve become aware of how annoying drunk people can be. I’m only doing sober October for charity so I was counting down the days till November 1st, however, after this weekend I’ve turned a corner and I think I prefer the sober me. I’m not saying never going to drink again but I have realised that I don’t need to have a drink to have fun. Very interesting article, thanks for sharing. X
I wish I could find the magic solution. Seems every event has alcohol attached to it. I wish I could say no thanks.
My head is in the right place again (I’m hoping for third time lucky). I enjoy reading your emails Kate because they make me think long and hard about alcohol and it’s terrible vice like grip. I’m going to go over your past emails and blogs and get myself into that better place which is sobriety. Thank you. Xx
Great food for thought here. thanks everyone. but what happens when you have reduced your friend group to those few who are similar – struggling with alcohol. Making changes is difficult as while you can seek and gain support to a degree, usually when one falls the other follows… and the alternative – being alone – creates its own difficulties with attempting sobriety.
If not challenging enough – just add anxiety (more specifically social anxiety) on top of that). Being around people, asking for help, dealing with “normal” social situations is difficult at its best, and usually dealt with by use of alcohol (successfully and yet more usually unsuccessfully)… but at least we have an “excuse” for behaving poorly…
Sorry. Clearly I am a person still struggling, but I am forever in hope of gaining the strength to address and end this cycle of self destructive behaviour. I am slowly taking the action required (starting with counselling) to assist in my recovery journey. I am thankful and will attempt to engage more (even online) with positive people (such as yourselves) who can provide hope and guidance on my journey through mutual sharing.
Hi KP, I think it makes such a difference when you’re surrounded by people who support you and genuinely want to see your drinking change. It sounds as if you might have to reach out for new friends or look for help elsewhere. My stop drinking course would be perfect for you if you’d like some more intensive support:https://thesoberschool.com/course/
Hi, I’m 37 days sober and I have not gone out socially as yet, to tell the truth I don’t know if my will power is up to it yet. Was involved in a car accident last week with my daughter (my fault) and how I have got through the last eight days without getting plastered I will never know but I did. I find I am not looking forward to going out again because my whole night actually my whole weekends were always about drink, drink and more drink and then there was the next day. My husband keeps asking me to go out for a meal but I cant see the point without the drink… how long does it take to get past this stage, are there people out there that are able to go out and have one or two drinks with a meal and not fall back completely into alcoholism. Can you learn to have one or two drinks and not get plastered or is this it… never again. My house is turning into a safe house because its safe, I really cant promise myself that if i go out i wont drink and that’s sad. Life at home is so so much better since i stopped drinking, the kids are happier, my husband isnt dreading coming home from work wondering what state i will be in and things are just better, i dont feel guilty every friday, saturday and sunday morning. Its sad to think that at this stage I feel sad that I will never have a drink again, finding it hard at the moment, but will do my best to keep going.
Hi Denise, I’m sorry to hear about your car accident, but well done on your 37 days. Have you had chance to work through exercise No.1 in detail? It will really help you to get clear on what alcohol does and doesn’t do for you. I don’t want you to be relying on willpower forever – that’s really hard to maintain. You say there’s no point going out for a meal if you can’t drink, but why not have a think about this:
Wouldn’t a meal with your husband be pleasant because:
a) you’re spending time with someone you like
b) you’re in a relaxing, enjoyable setting
c) you get to have some great food?
A meal out will be fun whether you drink or not. Alcohol has NO power to change that. Stay at home for as long as you feel comfortable, but don’t stop yourself doing things that are genuinely fun. Otherwise sobriety will be miserable!
I haven’t drunk alcohol since last NYE thanks to being inspired by your blog’s,Kate.
This weekend I have 3 old school friends coming to stay,which will involve us all going out to pubs and a music gig.I am determined not to drink with them,as I succeeded at the last reunion we had at another girl’s house.
At least I will make a much better hostess being sober,and while they’re all nursing a hangover the next morning,i can get up to do us all a tasty breakfast!
And I can also drive us all to the gig,saving everyone money.
So we CAN all do it – just go for it !
Ok Kate…you’re right on all 3 accounts. It’s not the alcohol…but the situation(good or bad) we put ourselves into. Guess my biggest worry was not me being boring…but my few friends finding me boring and not worthy of their time. But then…like you reminded me, that says something about them,not me. Now…just to convince myself!!!
This is my BIGGEST worry. Husband will find me dreadfully boring and uptight. And leave me. And FOMO is another huge one. Drinking was soooooo much fun until it wasn’t. I already don’t have any friends. So no worries there.